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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Bamidbar

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share this article from entitled "The Unforgotten Jew", originally published in the October of 2016 edition of Here's My Story

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Nemes works in the administration of Tzivos Hashem youth group, at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was interviewed in Brooklyn, in July of 2012.

Please click on the link to read this article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/196.-Vayelech-5776.pdf.

Be well. Have a beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Behar-Bechukotai

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to share this issue originally published in Here's My Story entitled, "She Can See You". 

Rabbi Mordechai Tzvi Sufrin, a renowned mashpia, lecturer and educator passed away in 2016. He taught in Lubavitch Grammer School and the Lubavitch Mechina in London, where he was interviewed in August of 2011.

Please click on this link to read the article: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads//2016/11/204.-Toldos-5777.pdf

Be well and have a beautiful Shabbos!

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Some Thoughts on Parsha Emor

 

Because You Can, That Means I Can? Why?

It was in the summer of 1974, I was sitting with my dear friend and fellow Shliach (colleague), Rabbi Yosef Samuels, late at night, discussing a community project we were planning. I was trying to sway him to oversee this initiative, when he turned to me and said: “Why don’t you do it?”

I responded, “If I can do it, why can’t you do it?”

He looked me in the eye and said: “Just because you can do it, why do you think I can do it as well? I feel you are a better fit for this project than I would be.”

Later, while reflecting upon this matter, I realized Rabbi Samuels’ argument made logical sense.

Both last week’s Parsha – Acharei-Kedoshim and this week’s Parsha – Emor, discuss the subject of “holy” (Kedoshim). The Torah states for Parsha Kedoshim: “Hashem spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, you G-d” [Leviticus: 19, 1-2].

For this week’s Parsha Emor, the Torah states: “Hashem says to Moses: Say to the Kohanim (priests), the sons of Aaron, and you shall say to them: to a [dead] persona he shall not become impure among his people.” And again, “They shall be holy to their G-d and they shall not desecrate the Name of their G-d” [Leviticus: 21, 1 & 6].

In reference to the commandment to all the Children of Israel, “You should be holy, for I am holy” begs the question, because G-d is holy, therefore we are expected to be holy??

It’s as if you would say: because Albert Einstein was a genius, we are all expected to be geniuses?

 

The Soul

Tanya, Chapter Two: “The second soul of the Israelite is ‘a piece of G-d above’ (Job 31:2) literally.”

As the verse Genesis 2:7 says: “And [G-d] blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”

Nachmanides, in explaining this verse as evidence of a Divine Soul, said: “This verse hints for us the virtue of the soul . . . It states that [G-d] breathed into his nostrils a soul of life to inform you that [the soul] is not derived from the elements . . . rather, it is the spirit of G-d” (Ramban, commentary to Genesis 2:7).

The Tanya continues: “You breathed it [the soul] into me” (Liturgy, Morning Prayers).  And, as the Zohar states, ‘One who blows, blows from his innards’ meaning from the innermost depths of his being.”

From these quotes we gain a sense of the potential in each and every one of us having “piece of G-d” within us. When that “piece” is developed, it allows us to illuminate our lives with a G-dly persona, hallow our physical reality, and imbue the world with holiness.

 

“And You Shall Walk in His Ways” (Deuteronomy 28:9)

In the Rambam’s, Hilchot Deot, Chapter One refers to the above quote by saying: “ [Our Sages] taught [the following] explanation of this mitzvah: Just as He is called ‘Gracious,’ you shall be gracious; Just as He is called ‘Merciful,’ you shall be merciful; Just as He is called ‘Holy.’ You shall be holy.”

From this quote, we see that the Rambam is issuing a Halachic ruling – that we are all expected to be holy. In other words, the Rambam has an expectation of all us to walk in G-d’s ways and be as holy as He is. How? Why?

Given the previous quotes and other sources, we have an understanding of the Rambam’s ruling, as we are all infused with the breath of G-d.

 

“We Must All Be Holy”

“You shall be holy. This admonition to strive for absolute human perfection is addressed to each and every member of the nation as an individual. No station in life, no sex, no age, no state of personal fortune is excluded from this call to strive for the heights of absolute morality, nor is the call addressed to any one individual apart from all others. We must all be ‘holy.’

Holiness results when a morally free human being has complete dominion over all his energies and inclinations and over the enticements and tendencies associated with these, and places them into the service of G-d’s will. Such dominion over one’s self, the greatest skill in man’s power to practice, does not consist in neglecting, stunting, suppressing or destroying any human drive or faculty. No potential or impulse given to man, from the most spiritual to the most sensual, is good or bad in itself. Each has been given to him for beneficial purpose in order to accomplish the will of G-d on earth. G-d’s Law has set for each a positive purpose and negative limits. Anything employed in the service of this G-d-appointed purpose and within the limits drawn by G-d is holy and good.“ (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh). 

 

Above – Actually

Hayom Yom writes: “In the winter of 5652 (1891-2), when my father taught me in Tanya. ‘The second soul in Israel is actually part of G-d above,’ he explained that the connotations of the words ‘above’ and ‘actually’ are contradictory.  ‘Above’ indicates the most spiritual of spiritual levels, while ‘actually’ (palpable, in Hebrew “mamash”) describes the most material of material things. He explained that this is the unique quality of the ‘second soul,’ that though it is the epitome of the spiritual it has an effect upon the most material of materiality.” (Manachem Av 23).

When reviewing the above concepts of “holiness” I reflect on the tremendous responsibility and opportunity that the good G-d has endowed each and every one of us with.  May we make the best of what we were given.

Have a warm and beautiful Shabbos.

In friendship, 
Rabbi SB Levitin

 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim

Dear Friend,
I am very pleased to share this week's Here's My Story article entitled, "The Young Role Model" published for Parsha Acharei-Kedoshim.

Mrs. Rochel Leah Presman, a mother of eight, gives Torah classes in Russian and is a teacher at Ulpan Morasha in Jerusalem where she was interviewed in February of 2017. 

Please click on the link to read this inspiring story: http://myencounterblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/226.-Acharei-Kedoshim-5777.pdf

Be well.
Have a Beautiful Shabbos.

Warmly,
Rabbi SB Levitin 

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